• Making the Neurosurgery Oral Board Exam Less Intimidating

    Authors: Costas G. Hadjipanayis MD, PhD
    Robert J. Spinner, MD

    Preparation for the American Board of Neurological Surgeons (ABNS) Oral Exam may be one of the biggest challenges neurosurgeons face during their careers. It is a necessary rite of passage for safe, practicing neurosurgeons in our country. The new exam format, now instituted for over a year, permits neurosurgeons to focus on a neurosurgery subspecialty of their choice for one of the test sessions. The new format also requires neurosurgeons to present their own cases with complications, selected by the ABNS, to the examiners. Board-eligible candidates are asked to discuss why they elected to operate, what operation they chose and how they performed it. Candidates' ability to discuss their own patients and cases is now an important part of the exam.

    So, what is the best way to prepare for this exam that will define your ability to practice neurosurgery at most hospitals in the US? Self-study has traditionally been an important method for preparation. Board- eligible candidates approach their partners or mentors to review neurosurgical cases and complication management. Attendance at multidisciplinary conferences (tumor, cerebrovascular, spine, functional, etc.) can permit a better understanding of the management of neurosurgical disorders. Attendance of the AANS Goodman Oral Board Preparation Course has also been a reliable and effective method for neurosurgeons' final exam preparation for over two decades. But new challenges also call for new preparation strategies.

    The CNS Oral Board Exam Preparation Review Course is now entering its 6th year of existence. The course, intended to be complementary to the Goodman course, has grown in attendance now permitting two courses a year. One course is held immediately preceding the annual CNS meeting and a winter course has been added in February, each scheduled to offer candidates an early preparation course and help them identify areas for continued study prior to the exam. The CNS Oral Board Review Course has closely aligned to the new ABNS exam format to provide neurosurgeons the confidence needed to pass the exam. Outstanding faculty from all over the country have tirelessly participated, now twice each year, to provide registrants the didactic and case-based presentations needed for each subspecialty. Small-group case discussions presented by expert faculty further define important management of neurosurgical disorders. Participants have also had the chance to present their own cases to discuss the management of their patients and complications. This has become an important component of the course where neurosurgeons can receive confidential feedback not only on their presentation styles but also the management of their cases and complications.

    We have been happy to direct this course and are grateful to the faculty who have been vital to its success. We believe we have created a course that truly addresses the needs of registrants-to take the exam with confidence and experience, to pass it, and to succeed in their neurosurgical practice. We look forward to continually refining the course as needed by board-eligible neurosurgeons and we hope to see some of you this October in Houston. 


    2018 CNS Oral Boards Review Course
    October 6-7 in Houston, TX

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